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CONFIDENCE TRICK

By JOHN WYNDHAM

Ever wonder where authors get their stories? We'll give you strong odds on how this one was cooked up. John Wyndham, one morning, was shoved into a London subway (the "tubes," you know), found himself being ground to powder by his fellow travelers, said, "I must say, this is a hell of a place!" — and a story was born.

And that's the way to become a writer. All you need is paper, pencil and subway fare!

"NEVER again," Henry Baider said to himself, once he had been condensed enough for the doors to close, "never again will I allow myself to be caught up in this."

It was a decision he had expressed before, and would probably, in spite of its face value, express another day. But, in between, he did do his best to assure that his infrequent visits to the City should not involve him in the rush hour. Today, however, already delayed by his business, he faced the alternatives of vexing his wife by delaying still further, or of allowing himself to be drawn into the flood that was being sucked down the Bank Station entrances. After looking unhappily at the moving mass and then at the unmoving bus queues, he had squared his shoulders." After all, they do it twice a day and survive. Who am I—?" he said, and stepped stoutly forward.

The funny thing was that nobody else looked as if he or she thought it a sub-human, stockyard business. They just waited blank-eyed, and with more patience than you would find in a stockyard. They didn't complain, either.

Nobody got out at St. Paul's though the increased pressure suggested that somebody had inexplicably got in. The doors attempted to close, drew back, presumably because some part of somebody was inexpertly stowed, tried again, and made it. The train drew heavily on.

The girl in the green mackintosh on Henry's right said to the girl in the blue mackintosh who was jammed against her: "D'you think you actually know when your ribs crack?" but on a philosophical note of fair comment rather than complaint.

Nobody got out at Chancery Lane, either. A lot of exhortation, shoving and staggering achieved the impossible: somebody more was aboard. The train picked up speed slowly. It rattled on for a few seconds. Then there was a jolt and all the lights went out.

Henry swore at his luck as the train drew up, but then, almost the instant it had stopped, it started to pull again. Abruptly he discovered that he was no longer supported by the people round him, and flung out an arm to save himself. It struck something yielding. At that moment the, lights came on again, to reveal that the object struck had been the girl in the green mackintosh.

"Who do you think you're—?" she began. Then her mouth stayed open, her voice failed, and her eyes grew rounder and wider.

At the same moment Henry had started to apologize, but his voice, too, cut out, and his eyes also bulged.

He looked up and down the coach that a moment ago had been jammed solid with people to the last inch. It now contained three others besides themselves. A middle-aged man who was opening his newspaper with an air of having been given his due at last; opposite him a woman, also middle-aged, and lost in contemplation; at the other end of the coach, in the last seat, sat a youngerlooking man, apparently asleep.

"Well, really!" said the girl. "That Milly! Just wait till I see her in the morning. She knows I have to change at Holborn, too. Getting off and leaving me without a word!" She paused. "It was Holborn, wasn't it?" she added.

Henry was still looking dazedly about him. She took hold of his arm and shook it.

"It was Holborn, wasn't it?" she repeated, uncertainly.

Henry turned to look at her, but still with a vagueness in his manner.

"Er... what was Holborn?" he asked.

"That last stop—where they all got out. It must've been Holborn, mustn't it?"

"I... er... I'm afraid I don't know this line well," Henry told her.

"I do. Like the back of my hand. Couldn't be anywhere but Holborn," she said, with selfconvincing firmness.

Henry looked up the swaying coach, past the rows of straphandles emptily aswing.

"I... er... didn't see any station," he said.

Her head in its red knitted cap tilted further back to look up at him. Her blue eyes were troubled, though not alarmed.

"Of course there was a station — or where would they all go to?"

"Yes..." said Henry. "Yes, of course."

There was a pause. The train continued to speed along, swaying more and jerking more now on its lightly loaded springs.

"The next'll be Tottenham Court Road," said the girl, though with a touch of uneasiness.

The train rattled. She stared at the black windows, growing more pensive.

"Funny," she said, after a while. "Funny-peculiar, I mean." "Look here," said Henry. "Suppose we go and have a word with those people up there. They might know something."

The girl glanced along. Her expression showed no great hopes of them, but: "All right," she said, and turned to lead the way.

Henry stopped opposite the middle-aged woman. She was dres...

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